Liberal Arts Blog — Golf in Japan: Ai Mizamato, Hideki Matsuyama, Tsubasa Kajitani

Liberal Arts Blog — Saturday is the Joy of Sports, Dance, Fitness, and All Things Physical Day

Today’s Topic: Golf in Japan: Ai Mizamato, Hideki Matsuyama, Tsubasa Kajitani

Ai Mizamato is the only Japanese golfer to be ranked number one in the world. She achieved this three times in 2010 — but without winning a major. “Her best finish was third three times.” Hideki Matsuyama this month made history by becoming the first Japanese man to win the Masters at Augusta. He was a long shot winner but had been ranked #2 in the world in 2017. Earlier in the month, Tsubasa Kajitani, 17, had become the first Japanese golfer to win the Augusta National Amateur, defeating the world’s number one ranked amateur, another 17 year old, Rose Zhang, an American. This week I decided to learn more about the history of golf in Japan. Some random notes follow. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

GOLF IN JAPAN 1903–1945

1. “In 1903 a group of British expatriates established the first golf club in Japan, at Kobe. In 1913 the Tokyo Golf club at Komazawa was established for and by native Japanese who had encountered golf in the United States. In 1924 The Japan Golf Association was established by the seven clubs then in existence.”

2. “During the 1920s and early 1930s several new courses were built, however the great depression and increasing anti-Western sentiment limited the growth of the game.”

3. “By the time of the Japanese attacks against the USA and British Empire in 1941 there were 23 courses. During the subsequent war most of the courses were requisitioned for military use or returned to agricultural production.” 1950s, 1960s, 1970s. 1980s — more golf courses than the rest of Asia combined

1. “In the postwar period, Japan’s golf courses came under the control of the occupying forces. It was not until 1952 that courses started to be returned to Japanese control. By 1956 there were 72 courses.”

2. “Between 1960 and 1964 the number of golf courses in Japan increased from 195 to 424. By the early 1970s there were over 1,000 courses.”

3. “The 1987 Resort Law that reduced protection on agricultural land and forest preserves created a further boom in course construction and by 2009 there were over 2,400 courses.”


1. Golf isn’t the only foreign sport that the Japanese have chosen to master. Baseball comes to mind first. Baseball is now “the country’s most popular participatory and spectator sport.” It was introduced to Japan in 1872 by Horace Wilson, a veteran of the US Civil War and English teacher at the Kansei Academy, a prep school in Tokyo.

2. And the obsession with American culture goes beyond sports. “If you’re looking for America’s best bourbon, denim, and burgers to go Japan where designers are re-engineering our culture in loving detail.” (Smithsonian Magazine, 2017)

3. Perhaps the symbolic peak in Japan’s love affair with golf was the “bromance” between US President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to sports, dance, fitness. Or the coolest thing you learned about Sports, Dance, of Fitness in your life — whether on the field, on the dance floor or in the gym, whether from a coach, a parent, a friend, or just your own experimentation.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day. Or even change their life. It’s perhaps a chance to put into words something you have never articulated before. And to cement in your own memory something cool you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.